There are two approaches to comic storytelling, in my humble opinion. On the one hand there’s the campy, corny perspective popularized in the 1980s and exemplified by the Superman franchise. These kid-friendly tales espouse the virtues of truth, sacrifice and justice. There’s always a ‘moral’ to the story, and the protagonist always strives to do the right thing. However, if you examine some of these other heroes’ backstories, you’ll see that they have rich, dark, troubled pasts that lend themselves to more layered, complex storytelling.
I admit that I was ignorant about Wolverine’s super powers. I thought Logan, the venerable X-Man, was invincible and immortal, but I was mistaken. He has healing powers, which have significantly slowed his aging process – but he is not ageless. This was readily apparent when the film opens and I see Hugh Jackman’s weary, lined face and salt & pepper hair. In his sixth reprisal of Wolverine, Jackman (Pan) is at his hulking, menacing best. Set in the near future, Logan is a far cry from previous X-Men movies. The tone is bleak, with director James Mangold (The Wolverine) depicting a dystopian future for mutants. Logan is off the grid, living in the shadows. His health is ailing, each step a lumbering effort.
Logan works as a chauffeur of sorts, if you could imagine Ray Donovan as an Uber driver. He’s fine flying under the radar until a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez, The Drop) approaches him asking that he drive her and her little girl Laura (Dafne Keen) a few states over. He’s reluctant, but there are some nefarious corporate types in pursuit of the wayward pair. Gabriela and Laura are privy to some damning information that could prove costly for an international pharmaceutical company. The company’s actions have deadly ramifications for mutants, who have been driven underground. It turns out Laura is not your average kid, inheriting special abilities from her long lost father, none other than Logan.
Logan’s plot was a solid one, not overly complicated or nonsensical, as is oft the case with comic book movies (see the last Avengers installment). X-Men’s mutants and the response to them have always served as a proxy for our own societal ills, and that theme remains present in Logan. To that end, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Christmas Eve) makes an appearance, but in keeping with the bleaker tone, this time his benevolence is couched in grizzled cynicism. Like Logan, he’s seen better days, as he deals with his own failing health and the emotional aftermath of a catastrophic mutant event to which he and Logan allude. Their bond is unwavering though, and together they try to get Laura to safety while evading her pursuant goons.
I have no real criticism of Logan. The plot was simple yet effective, and the role is a familiar one for Jackman, the quintessential embodiment of Wolverine. As he sliced and eviscerated his way through foe after foe, I was reminded of why I go to the movies. To feel this rush of excitement. Laura made for an even more impressive adversary than Logan, and their scenes together were amazing. This movie is not for the faint of heart, and it would be a mistake for parents to ignore its R rating. Comic book movies are best when they depart from the cheesy mass appeal and opt for a darker turn, as Marvel has done here with Logan. You won’t feel happy after this movie, but you sure will have enjoyed it. Grade: A.